I believe Christmas Eve is the most mystical night of the year. Even for those who do not believe in God, or have no religion, Christmas Eve is often filled with joy and wonder and mystery. The simple pleasures of gift giving, family time, time off from work, or whatever it may be, the constant hum of holiday music, tends to lighten all our spirits.
This is the darkest time of the year, the days are short and the nights are long, and just two days after the Winter Solstice, we have gained perhaps a minute of total light. Yet there is always something powerful and even beautiful during these dark days, as the chill of winter seems to deepen and the brightness and sunshine and warmth of spring and summer seem so very far away. What does Christmas represent?It represents many things, but mainly hope and joy and love and peace, an awareness that even in the darkest part of the year there is a hope awaiting us in the future, even though it seems so far away. I suppose this is one of the fundamental messages of Christianity itself.
The Madonna and Child above, one of my favorite paintings from one of my favorite artists, the great Raphael, seems to capture the strange and brooding melancholy that this darkest time of the year can create, and yet the very image itself is one of hope, the hope of future joy and peace and the powerful bonds that unite us as families, and the quiet and mysterious power of God in our lives.
Christmas is indeed a strange and wonderful time of the year.